Centre for Applied Linguistics & Language Education

A Logical Classification of English Aspects

A Logical Classification of English Aspects is the third in a series of five papers dealing with the basic grammatical structure and behavior of verbal constructions in modern English.  These five works: Voice in English:  Semantic Implications of the Passive-Active Paradigm (2007), Word Order & Syntactic Hierarchy in English (2007), A Logical Classification of English Aspects (2007), Structural Classification of English Modals (2009), and An Inventory and Discussion of English Futurity (2009) are intended to provide a holistic overview of the core functions of the language and their inherent interactions so that a better understanding of modern English grammar may be attained.


In years of teaching English and sitting in classes trying to learn other languages, one thing that has become evident to me is that most people do not understand the role of Aspect in language.  This is quite obvious when language learners are used as a thermometer against which to measure native speaker production errors.  There are quite well-known instances of widespread misuse of tense/aspect combinations.  North American English speakers are known to use forms such as ‘I saw’ when ‘I have seen’ is called for.  Likewise British speakers tend to use ‘I have seen’ nearly universally, even when ‘I saw’ or ‘I had seen’ would be the ideal forms.  It’s difficult to classify such happenings as error because grammar guides generally lack a clear explanation of the features, purpose, and usage of these many forms.  Those that do attempt to provide guidance, do so with a slew of competing ‘rules’ based on traditional prescriptive guidance or misperceived standards of usage.

The role of aspect in English is the one key attribute of the language which separates it from most other tongues, especially other Germanic languages.  The dynamics of aspect as both semantic and syntactic systems within English are complex and understanding of these processes are integral to fully understanding the grammar of the language.  It is my hope that this paper provides the historical and general linguistic background to understand the aspectual system of English, and that the proposed classification system for Aspect within the language may lead to a greater understanding and easier method of explaining the grammar and nature of the various forms of English conjugations.

Read the entire paper, or download it to your computer:

A Logical Classification of English Aspects


December 17, 2009 - Posted by | English Linguistics | , , , , , , , , , ,

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